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South Sudan, an unsustainable cocktail of hunger, floods and inter-community violence

MSF warns of widespread "impunity" in the country.

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South Sudan, an unsustainable cocktail of hunger, floods and inter-community violence

MSF warns of widespread "impunity" in the country


In one of the most corrupt countries in the world, South Sudan, millions of people survive the combined effect of hunger, floods or inter-community violence, an "inhuman" situation that for Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has reached its peak with the latest rains, which have caused diseases, destroyed crops and displaced thousands.

If the consequences are not mitigated, about two thirds of the population, equivalent to 7.8 million people, could suffer acute food insecurity between April and July 2023, according to figures from the United Nations, which has warned that more One million people have been affected by the latest floods in South Sudan.

This meteorological phenomenon, which mainly affects the states of Bahr el Ghazal North, Warrap, Unity and Western Equatorial, in the north of the country, together with the increase in violence between tribes, has worsened the humanitarian situation in the African country, which is plunged into a transition process after the 2018 peace agreement between the Government and the main rebel groups.

Despite the peace commitment signed between the president, Salva Kiir, and the rebel leader Riek Machar, South Sudan has been suffering since 2013 from recurring cycles of violence, famine and disease, such as malaria or cholera. This new episode of rains, however, has caused the levels of severe food insecurity to skyrocket to record highs.

In this way, the calls of the international community to raise funds by international organizations such as MSF, which has been working in the field for nearly 40 years, have begun to recur without this cocktail of disasters being reduced, but rather more quite the opposite due, in part, to the supply crisis during the pandemic and also to the shortages caused by the war in Ukraine.

The MSF mission in South Sudan is the organization's largest and to which it devotes the most financial resources, with nearly 4,000 workers in total, of which some 500 belong to the Spanish section, which is based in the capital, Juba.

MSF currently focuses on three areas of work: at the capital level, where they work from the central hospital, which has hospitalization and 24-hour care; at the provincial level, from the health centers and, finally, at the community level, where they train citizens in case of humanitarian emergencies.

The most immediate needs in South Sudan are food, as well as other essentials, such as blankets or plastic sheeting to provide shelter from the incessant rains. This supply often does not arrive because of inter-community violence.

"There are days when we cannot move because of the clashes," warned Esperanza Santos, MSF coordinator in South Sudan, adding that this situation has been recurring since August and that, when there are blockades and they cannot go to an area, people they are completely unprotected.

MSF is also responsible for supervising security during the movement of South Sudanese to the various health centers, which is usually done by boat on the Nile River, although road and air transport are also used.

In this sense, Santos has explained to Europa Press that they are in constant contact with the different actors to promote dialogue and trust, as well as to make it clear that, in the framework of these transfers of civilians, they are not harmful agents. "We never use armed escorts," he explained.

The increase in insecurity due to the presence of armed groups in the areas most affected by the floods not only impedes the humanitarian work of the NGO --despite the studies it carries out on the ground before carrying out the trips--, but also which also endangers the workers themselves.

Santos has alluded to the fact that there have been thefts of health supplies at gunpoint. In fact, last March MSF "strongly" condemned the thefts against its medical team on a road outside Yei, in the southwest of the country, on February 28.

The MSF coordinator in South Sudan has thus lamented the death of at least nine humanitarian workers so far this year, a considerably high figure, although she has also defended the theory that the focus must be civilians, who live day by day daily with massacres such as murders, rapes or burning of bodies in the villages, among others.

However, he has emphasized the widespread "impunity" of violence in South Sudan, where justice systems are practically non-existent. To the limited resources that the Government has, which is incapable of dealing with the current humanitarian situation, it is added that it is the "most corrupt country in the world", reaching the last position --180 of 180-- in the ranking prepared by the NGO Transparency International.

According to the United Nations, a child soldier is a minor who has been recruited or used by an armed group to carry out tasks ranging from active participation in conflicts, even carrying arms on the front lines, to occupying minor but essential positions.

Of this practice in South Sudan, prohibited by Humanitarian Law and defined as a war crime by the International Criminal Court, Santos has no record at the moment, although he has warned that many young South Sudanese may be in danger of being forcibly recruited. .

The situation of young people is especially critical, since many of them "have known no other reality" than inter-community violence and have been born and raised in refugee camps such as Malakal, which has added nearly 18,000 in recent months. people. "They have no future prospects," added Santos.

On the other hand, Santos also recalled that another of the challenges facing South Sudan is sexual and gender-based violence, which is "a reality", since they receive cases of women who have suffered rape and who "are forced to marry the rapist. According to data from the organization itself, more than 1,600 victims of sexual violence were treated in 2021.

Already in September, the president of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, Yasmin Sooka, denounced that in areas of Western Equatoria they do not have courts to deal with this type of crime, to which is added that sometimes the women do not report the cases because they live with the aggressors.

MSF warned in September that cuts to the South Sudanese Common Health Fund (HPF), which reach 30 percent of the budget of this organization, whose purpose is to finance primary care, would affect access to health services. specialized in infectious diseases.

In addition, as the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, cholera is re-emerging in its deadliest form throughout the world, helped, in part, by climate change, since extreme weather events, such as deluges, cyclones and droughts, further reduce access to drinking water.

However, in a more positive tone, Santos highlighted that cholera, a disease whose global resurgence has been warned by the World Health Organization (WHO), has a decreasing incidence in favor of malaria, which is still refuses to leave the country. Even so, MSF has insisted that more funding is needed to ensure basic and quality health services for millions of people.